5 Feb 2015

Residents race from flames

3:08 pm on 5 February 2015

Some Christchurch residents are coming to grips with how close they came to losing their homes in a destructive fire which swept across the edge of western suburbs yesterday.

The aftermath of the Christchurch blaze.

The aftermath of the Christchurch blaze. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

The fire burnt through about 30 hectares of farmland before it completely destroyed one home and severely damaged several others in the suburb of Hei Hei.

Residents picked up belongings and ran as flames from a huge blaze raced towards them, whipped up by 100 km/h winds.

Up to 40 properties, including two primary schools and a pre-school, were evacuated and residents had a nervous three-hour wait to find out whether their homes had survived the fire.

Chris Rogers' house's back wall was burnt, his daughter's play house destroyed, and his shed and parts of his house saturated.

But he said he felt lucky he had not lost it all, and hoped his house could be repaired.

"Waiting for the insurance to come round ... But as I say, it could have been worse. People could have lost their lives."

The blaze in Hei Hei destroyed one home and damaged two others after tearing through 30 hectares of farmland on the western edge of the city yesterday afternoon.

The home Kahli Hobbs shares with her partner was destroyed and the family made homeless.

Ms Hobbs, who is 30 weeks pregnant, said the clothes and other items she had bought and borrowed for the new baby are gone.

She was not insured but her family had had a lot of support, and offers of help from friends and strangers.

Her partner's mother, Leilanei Jenkins, said the fire could not have come at a worse time for the young couple.

The blaze had also caused a few nervous moments for her mother who also lived in the area. "They were getting ash and everything in their house," she said.

The young couple's neighbour, Ashleigh Jamieson, picked up her son's car seat and ran when she noticed the fire coming towards her.

She was grateful her house wasn't damaged and has donated some of her two-year-old's things to her neighbour to make up for what she's lost.

"I'm going to give her my son's bassinet and all my stuff so it works out cause she's having a boy too."

Roberts Road resident Daniel Richardson broke through the cordon and raced to his house to see if it was under threat.

He says he escaped by the skin of his teeth, and lost only a fence to the fire.

"I sorta jumped the fence down the road and worked my way down. I was here when they were putting out the last of the fire. I saw the old firefighters going nuts on the front lawn and I was very, very appreciative."

Neighbours in Roberts Road, Christchurch,  where two homes have been damaged by a blaze comfort each other at the cordon at the end of their street.

Neighbours in Roberts Road, Christchurch, where two homes have been damaged by a blaze comfort each other at the cordon at the end of their street. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

A car destroyed by the Christchurch fire.

A car destroyed by the Christchurch fire. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

The fire was fought from the ground and from the air by helicopters with monsoon buckets that used water from a school swimming pool.

Three firefighters needed treatment for exhaustion and smoke inhalation.

Brent Pascoe, who was at home when the fire reached Roberts Road, said things were chaotic.

"There was a power cut earlier, it went out for about half-an-hour. Then I saw clouds of smoke and a police car parked across the road here and cars just coming out of here. And then there was just havoc, smoke and people running up my driveway and telling me to lock up and I wouldn't go."

More on this story

Escape as fire surrounds home

As crews fought the blaze on the outskirts of Christchurch, a woman lucky escape from a scrub fire at Cust that at one point completely surrounded her home.

Power lines clashing and arcing into dry grass started a fire in a paddock outside a house near the North Canterbury township at 2.45pm yesterday.

The owner of the house, a 75-year-old woman, was able to escape out her back door before the fire completely surrounded the house.

Her son, volunteer firefighter Darren Rowe, said she had a lucky escape.

"She smelled some smoke and thought something is not right and the power had just gone out and she tried to make the call to raise the alarm," he said.

"Someone passing by could see and told her she had to get out because it was going to be in her house soon."

"She was out pretty smartly and came down and told me what was going on and the fire truck was already on its way."

With firefighters also battling the fire, Darren Rowe and his mother used their garden hose on the flames.

Mr Rowe says it was lucky the house was virtually undamaged considering the fire came within feet of it, but more so that his mother escaped unharmed.